NAADAC in Hong Kong

NAADAC’s Executive Director, Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, spent a week in Hong King with NAADAC’s Asia Pacific Association for Addiction Professionals (APAAP) in training sessions and meetings with host organization Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. The trainings focused on understanding the neurobiology of addiction as well as developing best practices for treating addiction, teaching the public how to understand addiction, and combating the stigma of addiction that seems to persist across the globe.

NAADAC launched a two-day conference for the APAAP with invited guests from Harvard Medical School.  Speakers included Dr. Howard Shaffer and Dr. Heather Gray from Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addiction, who presented “The Syndrome Model of Addiction” and “The Syndrome Model of Addiction: Updated Evidence and Implications.” 

Dr. Shaffer and Dr. Gray discussed key characteristics of addiction and substance use disorders on which practitioners should focus. These characteristics include the realizations that: 1) most people do not become addicted;  2)  most people do not need treatment to change; and 3) most treatments work about the same as each other and some do not work very well. Discussion centered on the efficacy of treatment. Dr. Shaffer and Dr. Gray spoke about conceptual errors on which many treatments focus, including 1)  the concept that addiction resides as a latent property,  such as in a drug;  2)  focusing on addiction rather than recovery; and 3)  assuming addiction resides in the object, such as the drug, or the cards (gambling addiction). As stated by Alan Leshner former NIDA Director, people use drugs, including alcohol for two basic reasons: 1) because it feels good (sensation seeking) or 2) to feel better (self-medication). 

Dr. Delaney Ruston from Stoney Brook University School of Medicine showed her video on “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age” and discussed the implications of this expression of addiction being added to the addictions seen across the globe. Participants learned that parents need to be educated regarding this rising addiction and learn how to set limits on screen time.

Dr. Thomas Chung from the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong presented on “Supporting Kids and Teens in the Digital Age”. He discussed how quickly young children become exposed and accustomed to digital technology; at 8 months old, kids are watching television, and at 10 months old, they are watching DVDs, and by 2 years old, they are on the computer. More children are giving up outdoor and extracurricular activities to remain at home on their devices. He ended his talk with the following tips: 

  • S – Show the right attitude.  Do not tell your children not to spend too much time and then you do.
  • A – Aware of the benefits and risks to digital use.
  • F – Facilitate a balanced life style including outside activities.
  • E – Empower children to face the challenge.
  • A - Agree on rules, together, on the time and types of digital use.
  • C – Communicate openly and honestly.
  • T – Trust and respect your child.
  • S – Seek help when needed.

Dr. Martin Kafka, a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, spoke on “The Internet and Sexual Addiction: A Guide for Clinicians and Psychopharmacologists,” focusing on the shared psychosocial antecedents of these disorders. These shared psychosocial antecedents are: 1) psychiatric depression, 2) trauma, 3) impulsivity, 4) delinquency, 5) lack of social skills, and 6) poverty. Non-pharmacological treatments include: CBT, DBT, family treatments, pharmacotherapy and other psychosocial treatments. In sum, Dr. Kafka explained that, “if you can change the person with addiction, you can change the downward spiral.” Dr. Kafka echoed the other presenters, who consistently placed the emphasis on the recovery of the person using multidimensional treatments.

Representatives from the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals discussed the history of their organization and their ongoing clinical research projects. The Tung Wah Group of Hospitals is a system that is over 150 years old and has over 125 clinics and hospitals across Hong Kong. The ongoing research areas include family based interventions for SUD in community based settings, single session therapies with multiple clinicians facilitating, art therapy for families with addictive parents, effectiveness of short-term residential treatment for clients with diverse addictive behaviors, and working with pregnant women with substance use disorders in residential settings.

Moreno Tuohy was the closing plenary speaker and spoke about her book, “Rein in Your Brain: from Impulsivity to Thoughtful Living in Recovery.” She discussed the ten tips to building regulation in the brain and working through the disagreements, trauma and misunderstandings of that happen in recovery.  Those ten tips are:

  1. Stand Still in the Moment
  2. Do Not Assume Intent
  3. Be an Archeologist – Dig Deeper into the Conflict/Hurt
  4. Cultivate Confusion
  5. Understand the Paradox of Control
  6. Dismantle the Wall of Misunderstanding
  7. Create a Blameless Relationship with Yourself
  8. Avoid Premature Forgiveness
  9. Put Down Your Dukes
  10. Take Responsibility for Self-Fulfilling Prophecies.


APAAP is one of the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCC AP) certifying bodies. APAAP trains in Hong Kong, Macaw, and China offering the basic training in addiction studies and offering the Certification test to those that qualify, now having NCACII’s and MAC’s in Hong Kong. NAADAC’s and NCC AP’s mission to be the premier global organization for Addiction Professionals continues to build, county by country. 

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Posted by David Semanco at 11:03 AM
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